Received Apr 29; Accepted Jul The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Why do people listen to music?
Over the past several decades, scholars have proposed numerous functions that listening to music might fulfill. However, different theoretical approaches, different methods, and different samples have left a heterogeneous picture regarding the number and nature of musical functions. Moreover, there remains no agreement about the underlying dimensions of these functions. Part one of the paper reviews the research contributions that have explicitly referred to musical functions.
It is concluded that a comprehensive investigation addressing the basic dimensions underlying the plethora of functions of music listening is warranted. Part two of the paper presents an empirical investigation of hundreds of functions that could be extracted from the reviewed contributions.
These functions were distilled to non-redundant functions that were then rated by respondents. Principal component analysis suggested three distinct underlying dimensions: People listen to music to regulate arousal and mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness.
The first and second dimensions were judged to be much more important than the third—a result that contrasts with the idea that music has evolved primarily as a means for social cohesion and communication.
The implications of these results are discussed in light of theories on the origin and the functionality of music listening and also for the application of musical stimuli in all areas of psychology and for research in music cognition.
Most common behaviors have a recognizable utility that can be plausibly traced to the practical motives of survival and procreation. Moreover, in the array of seemingly odd behaviors, few behaviors match music for commandeering so much time, energy, and money. Music listening is one of the most popular leisure activities. Music is a ubiquitous companion to people's everyday lives.
The enthusiasm for music is not a recent development. Recognizably musical activities appear to have been present in every known culture on earth, with ancient roots extending back , years or more see Zatorre and Peretz, The ubiquity and antiquity of music has inspired considerable speculation regarding its origin and function. Throughout history, scholars of various stripes have pondered the nature of music. Philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists, musicologists, and neuroscientists have proposed a number of theories concerning the origin and purpose of music and some have pursued scientific approaches to investigating them e.
The origin of music is shrouded in prehistory. There is little physical evidence—like stone carvings or fossilized footprints—that might provide clues to music's past. Necessarily, hypotheses concerning the original functions of music will remain speculative. Nevertheless, there are a number of plausible and interesting conjectures that offer useful starting-points for investigating the functions of music. A promising approach to the question of music's origins focuses on how music is used—that is, it's various functions.
In fact, many scholars have endeavored to enumerate various musical functions see below. The assumption is that the function s that music is presumed to have served in the past would be echoed in at least one of the functions that music serves today. Of course, how music is used today need have no relationship with music's function s in the remote past.
Nevertheless, evidence from modern listeners might provide useful clues pertinent to theorizing about origins. In proposing various musical functions, not all scholars have related these functions to music's presumed evolutionary roots. For many scholars, the motivation has been simply to identify the multiple ways in which music is used in everyday lives e.
Empirical studies of musical functions have been very heterogeneous. Some studies were motivated by questions related to development. Many related to social identity. Others were motivated by cognitive psychology, aesthetics, cultural psychology, or personality psychology. In addition, studies differed according to the target population. While some studies attempted to assemble representative samples of listeners, others explicitly focused on specific populations such as adolescents.
Most studies rely on convenient samples of students. Consequently, the existing literature is something of a hodgepodge. The aim of the present study is to use the extant literature as a point of departure for a fresh re-appraisal of possible musical functions. In Part 1 of our study, we summarize the results of an extensive literature survey concerning the possible functions of music. Specifically, we identified and skimmed hundreds of publications that explicitly suggest various functions, uses, or benefits for music.
We provide separate overviews for the empirical literatures and the theoretical literatures. This survey resulted in just over proposed musical functions. We do not refer to each of the identified publications but concentrate on the ones that have identified either more than one single function of music listening or a single unique function that is not captured in any other publication.
In Part 2, we present the results of an empirical study whose purpose was to distill—using principal components analysis PCA —the many proposed functions of music listening. To anticipate our results, we will see that PCA suggests three main dimensions that can account for much of the shared variance in the proposed musical functions. Review of the research on the functions of music Discussions and speculations regarding the functions of music listening can be found in both theoretical literature concerning music as well as in empirical studies of music.
Below, we offer a review of both literatures. Together, the two tables provide a broad inventory of potential functions for music. Theoretical approaches Many scholars have discussed potential functions of music exclusively from a theoretical point of view. The most prominent of these approaches or theories are the ones that make explicit evolutionary claims. However, there are also other, non-evolutionary approaches such as experimental aesthetics or the uses-and-gratifications approach.
Functions of music were derived deductively from these approaches and theories. In addition, in the literature, one commonly finds lists or collections of functions that music can have. Most of these lists are the result of literature searches; in other cases authors provide no clear explanation for how they came up with the functions they list.
Given the aim of assembling a comprehensive list, all works are included in our summary. Functions of music as they derive from specific approaches or theories Evolutionary approaches. Evolutionary discussions of music can already be found in the writings of Darwin.
Darwin discussed some possibilities but felt there was no satisfactory solution to music's origins Darwin, , His intellectual heirs have been less cautious.
Miller , for instance, has argued that music making is a reasonable index of biological fitness, and so a manifestation of sexual selection—analogous to the peacock's tail. Anyone who can afford the biological luxury of making music must be strong and healthy.
Thus, music would offer an honest social signal of physiological fitness. Another line of theorizing refers to music as a means of social and emotional communication. For example, Panksepp and Bernatzky , p. A similar idea is that music contributes to social cohesion and thereby increases the effectiveness of group action.
Work and war songs, lullabies, and national anthems have bound together families, groups, or whole nations. Relatedly, music may provide a means to reduce social stress and temper aggression in others.
The idea that music may function as a social cement has many proponents see Huron, ; Mithen, ; Bicknell, A novel evolutionary theory is offered by Falk a , b who has proposed that music arose from humming or singing intended to maintain infant-mother attachment. Humming or singing consequently arose as a consoling signal indicating caretaker proximity in the absence of physical touch. Another interesting conjecture relates music to human anxiety related to death, and the consequent quest for meaning.
Dissanayake , for example, has argued that humans have used music to help cope with awareness of life's transitoriness. In a manner similar to religious beliefs about the hereafter or a higher transcendental purpose, music can help assuage human anxiety concerning mortality see, e. Neurophysiological studies regarding music-induced chills can be interpreted as congruent with this conjecture. For example, music-induced chills produce reduced activity in brain structures associated with anxiety Blood and Zatorre, Related ideas stress the role music plays in feelings of transcendence.
For example, Frith, , p. The experience of flow states Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi, , peaks Maslow, , and chills Panksepp, , which are often evoked by music listening, might similarly be interpreted as forms of transcendence or escapism see also Fachner, More generally, Schubert has argued that the fundamental function of music is its potential to produce pleasure in the listener and in the performer, as well.
All other functions may be considered subordinate to music's pleasure-producing capacity. Relatedly, music might have emerged as a safe form of time-passing—analogous to the sleeping behaviors found among many predators.
As humans became more effective hunters, music might have emerged merely as an entertaining and innocuous way to pass time during waking hours see Huron, The above theories each stress a single account of music's origins. In addition, there are mixed theories that posit a constellation of several concurrent functions. Anthropological accounts of music often refer to multiple social and cultural benefits arising from music.
Merriam provides a seminal example. In his book, The anthropology of music, Merriam proposed 10 social functions music can serve e.
Merriam's work has had a lasting influence among music scholars, but also led many scholars to focus exclusively on the social functions of music.
Following in the tradition of Merriam, Dissanayake proposed six social functions of ritual music such as display of resources, control, and channeling of individual aggression, and the facilitation of courtship. Many scholars have steered clear of evolutionary speculation about music, and have instead focused on the ways in which people use music in their everyday lives today. This approach focuses on the needs and concerns of the listeners and tries to explain how people actively select and use media such as music to serve these needs and concerns.
Arnett provides a list of potential uses of music such as entertainment, identity formation, sensation seeking, or culture identification.